In early 17th century, it was still a small trade and fishing settlement near the village of Włostowice, located close to the former Vistula river crossing. It that was part of the Końskowola estate which belonged to the noble family of Opalinski. In the second half of the 17th century, the estate was acquired by way of marriage by Duke Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski, Great Marshal of the Crown, who established one of his mansion houses in Puławy. He ordered to construct a palace and park complex, as designed by outstanding Dutch architect Tielman van Gameren. From 1702 the village was owned by the Sieniawski family and from 1731 - by the Czartoryski family.

Duke Aleksander Czartoryski made Puławy one of the key centres of political and cultural life of then Poland. A thorough reconstruction of the palace started in 1731, transforming it from a semi-fortified villa into a rural mansion house. Aleksander’s son - Adam Kazimierz Czartoryski, a patron of arts and culture, the creator and commandant of the Knights’ School in Warsaw and a member of the Commission of National Education - settled there permanently in 1785. His wife Izabela Czartoryska, nee Fleming, was considered one of the most enlightened Polish women of her times, who gathered numerous writers, painters, architects and musicians around her. People who worked there included Grzegorz Piramowicz, Franciszek Dionizy Kniaźnin, Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, Jan Paweł Woronicz, Franciszek Zabłocki, Piotr Norblin, Szymon Bogumił Zug and Piotr Aigner. The years from 1782 to 1793 were the period of the greatest splendour of Puławy, which at that time was called “The Polish Athens” or “The Athens of the North”.

During the Kościuszko Insurrection in 1794, the mansion house in Puławy was destroyed by the Russian army. Empress Catherine II punished the Czartoryski family for taking an active role in the political life and supporting the uprising by confiscating their property. As a result of the Third Partition of Poland, the Lublin region was incorporated in the Austrian Empire and Puławy was returned to the Czartoryski family. In 1796 they came back to the mansion and Duchess Izabela began to reconstruct the whole estate complex. The palace was enlarged and modernised and the park, previously arranged in the French style, was now converted into a fashionable English-style landscape park. In subsequent years, new buildings were erected within the layout the park, as designed by Piotr Aigner, the court architect of the Czartoryski family. These included the Greek House (an orangery), Marynka’s Palace, Sybil’s Temple and a church built in the form of the Roman Pantheon. At that time the duchess also started to collect Polish national memorabilia. At her initiative, the first museum in Poland was established in the Sybil’s Temple.

After the Napoleonic wars, Puławy was incorporated into the Duchy of Warsaw together with the Lublin region and then into the Kingdom of Poland after the Congress of Vienna in 1815. As the November Uprising broke out, Duke Adam Jerzy Czartoryski headed the Interim Government.  After the fall of the uprising, the Czartoryskis emigrated, Puławy was confiscated and the palace was put to educational use.

In 1842, the Tsarist authorities renamed Puławy to New Alexandria. It hosted the Lublin governorship’s county authorities from 1867, but was granted municipal rights only in 1906. The construction of the Vistula railway line in 1877, going from Mława to Kowel via Warsaw, Puławy and Lublin, spurred the town’s growth. During World War One, Austrian troops took over New Alexandria in 1915. The military activities wreaked havoc on the town. However, Puławy was quickly rebuilt and became a popular holiday resort in the inter-war period.

In the first days of World War Two, as it was situated on an important transport route, the town was air raided by the German air force and invaded by the Wehrmacht. Similarly to other towns on the right bank of the Vistula river, Puławy became part of the Lublin district that belonged to the General Government. In December 1939, two thousand and five hundred of Puławy Jews were sent to the Opole Lubelskie ghetto and the rest died in 1943. The Puławy county became the area of increased activity of the Polish underground organisations and guerilla groups, including the Union of Armed Struggle, the Home Army, the Peasant Battalions and the National Armed Forces.

At the turn of July and August 1944, heavy fighting between the First Polish Army and German troops took place in the vicinity of Puławy. In January 1945, the town was depopulated and 60-percent destroyed, but it came back to life. In April 1945, the Orlik squad broke into the Security Office (UB) prison in Puławy and released more than 100 prisoners. In the first post-war years, the bridge was repaired, the reconstruction of the Czartoryski mansion house was started, the park was rebuilt and some of the memorabilia gathered by Izabela Czartoryska were brought back. The former Czartoryskis’ Palace now hosted the Institute of Plant Cultivation, Fertilization and Soil Sciences.

The decision to locate the Nitrogen Plant (1960) close to the town brought important changes to the locality as it spurred Puławy’s spatial and demographic growth. Puławy started to attract people from outside, which triggered the construction of new housing districts in various parts of the town. Since 1999, Puławy has been the capital of the restored Puławy county (Lubelskie province).

References

  • Hołubowicz-Kliza G., Puławy — polskie Ateny (Puławy - the Polish Athens), Puławy, 2006.
  • Matyka M., Puławy „miasto, które wyrosło z ogrodu” (Puławy: “A Town that Grew out of a Garden”), Puławy, 2005.
  • Strzemski M., Nasze Puławy (Our Puławy), Lublin, 1986.
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